How I discovered for myself that doing a pidyon nefesh with Rav Berland (aka Eliezer ben Etia) really works.

The last couple of years, I’ve been having an ‘interesting’ time, health-wise. If you’re occasionally visiting the spiritualselfhelp.org, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in soul, body and mind being intrinsically connected to each other.

In fact, that’s the main premise underpinning my next book that’s hopefully out soon, called ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health’. The main idea is that physical illnesses are only the manifestation of ‘soul’ illnesses, which if they aren’t fixed at the spiritual level, next show up as ‘mental and emotional’ illnesses, and only then show up in the body.

As usual, I learn all this stuff the hard way.

I started writing that book to share my own experiences of getting stuck in a few incredibly difficult spiritual experiences, that had a massively negative impact on my emotional state, and then my physical health. To cut a very long story short, I had so many things going wrong the last couple of years’ that I got mired in a huge amount of desperation and despair, despite all my attempts to keep picking myself up in hitbodedut.

Let’s be clear that without the hitbodedut, I would not have come through losing my house, friends, business, money, faith in humanity and marbles anywhere near as easily as I did, but that doesn’t mean it was a ‘fun’ experience. There was one time last year, when me and my husband were utterly stuck financially, and we were reaching the end of the proceeds of selling our house that had been keeping us going, that I really felt as though my next move was going to be to a dumpster, God forbid.

I don’t know if you’ve ever hit that sort of low place in your own life, but let me tell you: if you stay there for any length of time, sooner or later it kills you.

You lose your will to live, to keep going, and that’s just not something that can continue for long without some serious consequences.

Things started to really turnaround last Chanuka, when I took a trip to Uman and spent most of it extremely angry at Rabbenu and God for dealing me such a difficult hand. But by the end of the trip, the anger had dissolved, the profound disappointment had surfaced, and the bad, icky stuff was finally making its exit, spiritually.

It still took a few months for things to pick up  in my actual life: Baruch Hashem, around Purim my husband started working again, and Hashem sent Him some easy ways to make parnassa that enabled him to carry on learning part-time in yeshiva, which had been our big dilemma as it seemed as though he’d only be able to go back to work if he stopped learning.

But physically, I was still wrecked.

I’d been living on my nerves for years and it took its toll. I felt drained and fatigued a lot of the time, and dizzy and ‘out of it’. I upped my energy med stuff, I started doing 3 tikkun haklalis most days, I stuck lentils all over my hand (that’s a story for another time) and it all helped. But I was still not 100%, most days.

Rosh Hashana rolled around, and the first day I felt so ill. It miraculously lifted just as nightfall fell, and I wondered what sort of year I was going to have. I hoped it was going to be different, better, and I told God I couldn’t cope with another few years’ like the last ones I’d been through. No way, Hose.

Things mostly got better, but then ‘the matzav’ kicked off, and I found my stress levels were going through the roof, especially after my kid’s teacher’s husband got stabbed to death in the Old City.

My nervous system, which was slowly recovering after all the financial stress, and moving stress, and social stress, and spiritual stress of not knowing what God really wanted from us, took a nosedive again, and I started to get pretty bad headaches, and to feel pretty lousy again.

O no! And this time, I was still drinking green smoothies, eating veggies, walking everywhere and doing my daily energy exercises and doing hitbodedut. I’d also made my peace with a bunch of people and God, so I had no idea what else I could do to start to feel better (other than move to somewhere quiet where everyone’s over the age of 60, like Switzerland…)

Enter: Rabbi Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia

They’ve started translating a whole bunch of things about Rav Berland into English, and God arranged for me to read one story after another about people he’d helped who were facing much more serious health issues than me. People who the doctors had given up on. People who really had reached the end of the line.

These people had done a pidyon nefesh with Rav Berland, and got better again. I sat on the fence for a whole month, but then as the headaches and weakness kicked-in again, I decided I had nothing to lose except a bit of cash. We got in touch, I emailed the gabbay details of the problem – and from the minute I sent the email, I started to feel better.

Last week, I paid over the pidyon money (it was quite a lot still, but nowhere near what I  was expecting) – and I’ve broadly been headache free since then, despite having some ongoing huge stresses. (I know, I know, when are there not huge stresses?)

Somehow, the spiritual weight has been lifted off, and terrorists, school moves, financial issues and book production problems notwithstanding, I actually feel pretty darned good, BH!

But I was still cautious about rushing into print. I’ve learnt so many times that when I share these things, I get really tested on them, and I didn’t want to go back to feeling ill again. But then at the Baba Sali, I got nudged to write a public ‘thank you’ to Rav Berland, and to not worry about the outcome.

So here it is, in all its glory.

You can read more about Rav Berland’s pidyon nefesh HERE. You can get in touch and arrange your own pidyon nefesh HERE. You can read a whole bunch of background articles explaining how pidyon nefesh actually works and why HERE. And if you’re struggling with any serious or chronic health issue, I urge you to take the leap of faith, and contact his gabbay.

UPDATE:

Doing my internet work at the ‘hub’ for start-ups that the Jerusalem Council has very kindly located right next door to my house is giving me a lot of food for thought.

When I first started going there, a couple of months’ back, there were already a few ‘regulars’ who seemed to have the whole start-up / internet entrepreneur thing sussed.

Their conversations were full of impressive-sounding strategies for how to use Twitter, and how to reach people by paying writers to pretend to be fake people using their products on Fakebook, and how to optimise opportunities via Amazon Associates etc etc

Despite myself, I was secretly impressed – and not so secretly thrown for a loop. I mean, they sounded so with-it and sorted, they were surely making millions already…

And me? Well, I’m still waiting for my ship to come in and my efforts to pay off.

Somewhere deep down, I started to think that maybe I had to start playing the game a whole lot more, if I really wanted to get somewhere online.

Maybe, I’d have to start investing a huge amount of effort in Twitter…Maybe, I’d have to hold my nose and start a Facebook account…Maybe, I’d have to waste huge chunks of time making stupid comments on other people’s posts to ‘maintain visibility’…

I’ll be honest: I started a Twitter account for JEMI; I started a Facebook page (purely business) for Talk to God. And after a couple of weeks, this is what I realised:

It’s all a crock!

God really doesn’t need me to waste my time trying to garner likes, retweets or comments in order to do something useful with my life.

Meanwhile, back at the hub, the wheels were starting to come off a lot of the bright, shiny ‘internet entrepreneurs’. They aren’t all going bonkers (yet…) but there are some definite signs of wear and tear on even the most bullish and optimistic ones.

As I watched them get more and more stressed, and angry, and less and less friendly and even plain nice, this is what I realised:

Being on the internet too much is literally driving people insane.

There’s many reasons for this.

1) It makes you waste a lot of time on things that appear to be useful, which are anything but.

Then, you get to the end of the day wondering where all that effort and investment went, and you have nothing to show for it.

2) It gives you a false sense of connection, that actually just leaves you feeling incredibly empty as soon as you power-off.

The first few weeks of doing things like Linked In, or writing articles for Ezine, I was thrilled to be back in the ‘real world’ again, and connecting to people. Then, I realised how lonely I felt after I’d sent another email monologue, or read through a few other people’s posts.

It was like trying to connect to a statue, or a ghost. There was an impression or illusion of a relationship there, but actually nothing underneath. I imagine regular users of Facebook must feel the emptiness in their real lives even more acutely.

3) It literally saps your strength and energy.

This is a whole big post for another time, but I could feel enormous differences in my mood and my energy levels when I was working on a computer that was connected to the internet, and when I wasn’t.

To put it simply, the electrical frequency that things like WiFi are operating on completely fry out the human electrical system that’s part of the miraculous way that God operates the human body. It’s like having all your circuits scrambled – it literally drains you of energy, changes your mood, and puts you into a type of hypnotic trance.

(BTW, this is also a big part of the reason why internet use is actually physically addictive, but I’ll talk about that another time.)

4) It blurs the line between real and unreal

More than anything else, watching the erstwhile internet entrepreneurs literally waste hours of their precious time pipe dreaming about the online businesses they were building, and the online audiences they are capturing, has taught me a very profound lesson about how the yetzer hara can use our power of imagination against us.

In internet make believe land:

  • You HAVE to have a dotcom for anyone to take you seriously…
  • Your website has to have a beta model, take 6 months to put together, and cost a minimum of $10k…
  • You have to be working Twitter and Facebook all day and all night – even creating a slew of fake people, to help you promote your product…

In reality:

  • No-one really gives a monkeys about how your email address ends.
  • You can do a very nice website (or 5) on DIY sites like Weebly for a few bucks’ a month, and no-one will ever know the difference.
  • Twitter and Facebook are a complete waste of time – everyone is churning it out, but no-one is really paying attention to what anyone else is saying.

Once I realised all this (and it took me a few good weeks to really see through the illusion), I stopped taking all the internet and social media stuff seriously. I got back in touch with my belief that God is running the world – even crazy places like pretend internet entrepreneur land – and I cut back my visits to the hub to maximum 2 or 3 times a week.

The last thing I did is take up knitting. It may not sound as impressive as sending tweets to 800 people every day, but it’s a heck of a lot more enjoyable and productive.

So, about three months ago, I wrote the draft of a book about how to talk to God and fix your mental and physical health.

I tweaked it, rewrote it, tweaked it some more, then started contacting literary agents to see if anyone might be interested in helping me get a book deal. I mean, I have a blog… I’ve been writing for years… How hard could it be to get published?

The answer is: pretty darned hard.

Apparently, I need 25k followers on Twitter and 100k readers (minimum…) before anyone will touch my book with a bargepole.

The good news is: I’m 2% of the way there.

But I realised, I need some help. I bit the bullet and signed up for Twitter (which I still so don’t get, btw) – but I can’t bring myself to do Facebook. Even the thought of befriending 4000 people online gives me heebie-jeebies.

So now, I’m back to the same question I’ve been wrestling with for years, already: does God want more prayer to get me bumped up to a big readership, or more effort?

Let’s be clear that before I started my blogs and new business, I’d spent approximately the last seven years ONLY praying. I had a huge reaction to my first business going down the toilet (with very little prayer and huge amounts of effort), and I felt like ‘prayer is the only way to go’.

It worked OK until my husband quit his job to join me in that approach a couple of years’ ago – and we ended up going completely bankrupt and having to sell our house just to buy groceries.

I’m still in the process of picking through the aftermath of being hit by that spiritual tsunami, and I still haven’t been able to draw any fast and hard conclusions, except maybe for one: I’m clearly not at the level where I can just sit on my couch and still be able to buy my cheerios.

So I at least got that message, and I reacted by trying my best to ‘do’ more.

But I seem to have come full-circle now, facing that same problem that’s dogged me for years. If ‘all work’ wasn’t the way to go, and ‘all prayer’ apparently wasn’t the way to go, what does that leave me with?

I know, you’re going to say ‘the balanced, middle way’, but as we’ve already discussed, balance is SO not me. But apparently, it’s going to have to be. I guess I’ll have to carry on doing the odd six hour prayer session, and then carry on finding random people on Twitter to connect to.

I think.

Unless you have any better ideas?